Monday, April 6, 2009

A Cold Season

It will be hot again, and it will be sunny. I have to believe it will be, because it has been before. The heat will come suddenly, like an ambush, and I will not be prepared. But now, caught in the limbo of the bone-chilling season known in New England as spring, I can hardly imagine it. I can barely remember past summers; I anticipate the coming one not because of decades of empirical evidence, but because of something more like faith. And I try to be a good New Englander. I try to love the cold and happily venture out into the rain. I haven't achieved this yet; I have never been, and will never be, one of those girls who can stand on the snowy sidewalk in jeans and a purely decorative scarf looking warmed from the inside. But I can feel, almost, how it might be to be that kind of wintry person.

New London, like Original London, is frequently blanketed in fog. Church spires disappear into a swirling gray mist and seagulls wheel and scream. Fog-horns increase their frequency and train whistles seem louder, as if they are trying harder to penetrate the mist. Walk outside in New London fog and your hair curls up, your skin feels damp, your pant legs become mired in grainy dirt and sand. You come home looking as if you have gone not on a little walk, but on a journey. There is an essence of wildness here, of water, which urbanization cannot take away. It is as if the shore is attempting to take back the city. You can feel it more strongly, paradoxically, when the weather is at its least beachy.

When it is cold out, Harkness Memorial State Park, on a tip of Waterford that curves into Long Island Sound, feels abandoned. In the summer it is lovely, it is easy, it is all blooming trees and picnics and vines curving daintily around garden trellises. It is obvious why any turn of the century oil heir would have wanted an Italianate mansion here, and a lawn that stretches majestically down to the Sound. In the winter it is starker, but it is no less beautiful. The wind whips across the lawn and makes walking hard work. The dark choppy waves slap against the rocks and the stone walls of the grand house look as wet and cold as the sand.

Though I am usually freezing from October to June, I try to appreciate bits of winter beauty like these. I have not yet managed to trick my genes into thinking I belong in this icy corner of North America instead of a Middle Eastern desert, but because I have chosen to live where most of the year is spent shivering, I try. And though I am not there yet, there are moments - right before my ears become so cold they start to burn - when the sky turns dark and the flags flap violently in the wind and the world seems fully alive in all its damp and darkness.

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